BOURBON BAY, CHAMP PEGASUS RENEW MARATHON RIVALRY IN SAN LUIS OBISPO; SMILING TIGER SEEKS REDEMPTION IN SAN CARLOS SATURDAY

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 16, 2011) – Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus, the West Coast’s foremost turf marathoners, renew their long-range relationship in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Stakes at 1 ½ miles on Saturday when they meet for the third time in what promises to be the “rubber game” of their racing rivalry.

Bourbon Bay got the better of favored Champ Pegasus most recently in the Jan. 17 San Marcos Stakes, a Grade II at 1 ¼ miles. Before that, Champ Pegasus made good on his 8-5 favoritism when besting third-place Bourbon Bay by one length in Oak Tree’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch over 1 ¼ miles at Hollywood Park on Oct. 3.

It is expected that the more recent San Marcos result, which separated the pair by one length, will elevate Bourbon Bay to slight favoritism when attempting to defend his title among 13 entrants in the 55th running of the San Luis Obispo.

Trainer Jeff Bonde’s Smiling Tiger will seek redemption with a rider switch to Joel Rosario among six sprinters in Saturday’s co-feature, the 73rd running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs.

Although inclement weather is a distinct possibility on Saturday, it is hoped the San Luis Obisbo will remain on Santa Anita’s Camino Real Turf Course. First run on turf in 1954, a surface switch has occurred just three times in San Luis Obispo history, most recently in 2005.

The defending champion’s fondness for the turf course is well established. After winning a first-condition allowance race on Jan. 6 of last year, David and Jill Heerensperger’s son of Sligo Bay stepped up to win the 2010 San Luis Obisbo by 4 ½ lengths, igniting a sizzling streak of wins in three Grade II marathon events at Santa Anita before falling to Champ Pegasus seven months later in Hollywood Park’s Hirsch.

With January’s San Marcos’ win, Bourbon Bay extended his perfection in races over Santa Anita’s Camino Real Turf Course to five races.

Meantime, Champ Pegasus was developing rapidly last summer for trainer Richard Mandella. His Hirsch triumph was his fourth in five starts including a maiden breaker in race No. 4. Champ Pegasus proceeded to run a bang-up second to Dangerous Midge in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.

The match between the pair of 5-year-old turf marathoners serves to provide a rivalry within a rivalry. Leading rider Rafael Bejarano accompanies Bourbon Bay. Rosario, Bejarano’s close pursuer in the Santa Anita jockey standings, is the regular rider of Champ Pegasus.

Mandella expects the son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, whom he conditions for Diamond A Racing Corp. and Arturo Vargas, to offer a sterner test for Bourbon Bay on Saturday.

Following a mile drill in 1:40 1/5 over Santa Anita’s main track last week, Mandella said, “The work was very good. It looked like he might have needed the outing in the San Marcos. He seemed tired afterward, but that race ought to put him in pretty good shape.”

Champ Pegasus, never worse than second in his last seven starts, will take an overall record of 4-4-1 from 10 races into the San Luis Obispo along with earnings of $928,520. Bourbon Bay has earned $509,424 from a 6-2-3 record in 15 lifetime starts.

The complete field for the San Luis Obispo Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Bourbon Bay, Rafael Bejarano, 123; Haimish Hy, Garrett Gomez, 123; Riviera Cocktail, Alonso Quinonez, 118; Juniper Pass, Brice Blanc, 118; Champ Pegasus, Joel Rosario, 123; Pode Ir, Omar Berrio,118; Interpatation, Santiago Reyes, 118; Falcon Rock, Patrick Valenzuela, 118; Unbridle’s Dream, Joseph Talamo, 118; Marlang, David Flores, 118; Tiz Argent, Victor Espinoza, 118; Imponente Purse, Martin Garcia, 118, and Buenos Dias, Martin Pedroza, 118.

Rosario will replace Northern California-based Russell Baze atop Smiling Tiger in the San Carlos with Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz’s 4-year-old colt having been assigned high weight of 121 pounds.

After having won Oak Tree’s Grade I Ancient Title Stakes, running a competitive third to Big Drama in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint and losing by a nose to the brilliant Twirling Candy in Santa Anita’s opening-day Grade I Malibu Stakes with Baze in the saddle, Smiling Tiger took it on the chin in the Grade II Palos Verdes.

He suffered the worst defeat of his 12-race career in the six furlong event while finishing third, 4 ½ lengths behind 9-1 winner Euroears at odds of 2-5. Smiling Tiger had drawn the rail and acted up in the gate.

“He didn’t get away at all,” said Baze. “I don’t know if it was the rail or getting ‘eared’ in the gate. He was throwing a wingding.” Smiling Tiger barely held on for third in the field of six. He brings a record of 5-1-6 from his dozen starts and earnings of $785,864 into the San Carlos. Smiling Tiger will break from post position No. 5.

His opposition includes Palos Verdes runner-up Captain Cherokee; Ventana, fourth in the Palos Verdes and second to Bob Black Jack in last year’s San Carlos, and Supreme Summit, a hard-charging fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint while finishing on near even terms with Smiling Tiger after running second to the latter by one-half length in the Ancient Title.

The complete field for the San Carlos, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Mythical Power, Bejarano, 117; Ventana, Garcia, 119; Stacy’s Hope, Espinoza, 113; Captain Cherokee, Talamo, 117; Smiling Tiger, Rosario, 121, and Supreme Summit, Gomez, 118.

The San Luis Obispo is scheduled as the third race on a nine-race program with the San Carlos to be run as the eighth. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

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